Canucks-Blue Jackets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 12, 2011
The Vancouver Canucks have played some of their best hockey of the season over the last three weeks. Based on recent history, it seems unlikely the Columbus Blue Jackets will be able to cool them off. Looking to match a season high with their fifth consecutive victory, the surging Canucks try to continue their recent dominance of the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena. After starting 9-9-1, Vancouver (18-10-1) has won nine of 10. With Saturday's 4-1 victory at Ottawa, the Canucks have outscored their opponents 19-5 during their current four-game winning streak. "As a team we've really stepped up our game and even if we're off we're finding ways to win," said goalie Roberto Luongo, who has posted a 1.45 goals-against average during the Canucks' four-game run. There's a good chance Vancouver could continue its success while trying for a 10th consecutive victory over Columbus (8-17-4), which has lost five of seven and sits at the bottom of the league with 20 points. The Canucks, who have won both previous meetings with the Blue Jackets this season, have outscored them 38-19 during their nine-game series streak. It's their longest current winning stretch over an opponent and Columbus' longest active skid against any team. Vancouver has won five in a row at Nationwide Arena since a 3-2 defeat there Dec. 1, 2008. "(The Canucks) find a way to have their teams focused for every game, and you know when you're playing against them you're in for a tough matchup," goaltender Curtis Sanford told the Blue Jackets' official website. "They have gritty hard-working players and the Sedin twins work that cycle really well, sometimes it seems like they spend forever in the offensive zone." Henrik and Daniel Sedin have combined for seven goals and 25 assists during their last 13 games versus Columbus. Daniel had one of each in a 4-1 home win over the Blue Jackets on Nov. 29. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler, who also had a goal and an assist in that contest, recorded two goals with an assist at Ottawa. The former Ohio State star has two goals with five assists in his last four games overall. Luongo has a 1.91 GAA during a three-game winning streak against the Blue Jackets, while backup Cory Schneider has won both meetings with a 1.50 GAA this season. Columbus will try to avoid a third consecutive loss after falling 5-3 to reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston on Saturday. Rick Nash recorded his team-leading ninth goal and Jeff Carter scored in his second straight game, but the Blue Jackets blew an early 2-0 lead for the second consecutive contest. "Our start is key, and we have to be able to manage late-period situations better than we have lately," said Sanford, who made 24 saves against Boston for his second straight loss. Nash has two goals and two assists over his last five games but just one assist during his last seven versus Vancouver. Steve Mason, who stopped 22 shots in a 3-2 home loss to the Canucks on Oct. 10, could be back in net for the Blue Jackets. He has a 4.91 GAA while losing four of his last five starts overall.
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